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Overhead view of some islands out of a plane window during sunset

Japan doubles its islands

A couple years ago, after moving to Ikijima, I introduced you all to the idea of ritō, or “remote island”.

Being a “stratovolcanic archipelago” Japan has a lot more islands than you can likely name. In fact, there are 6,852 at the last official count.

A few days ago, the Japan Times reported that the official count of Japanese islands will increase significantly:

The number of listed Japanese islands is expected to more than double from 6,852 to 14,125 after the government recounted them for the first time in 35 years, according to a source familiar with the matter. The huge increase resulting from improved accuracy with the digitalization of maps is unlikely to change the size of Japanese territory or territorial waters, the source told Kyodo News on Monday.

This brings Japan up in the ranking of archipelagic nations:

  1. Indonesia at 17,508 islands
  2. Japan now at 14,125 islands
  3. Philippines (the former Number 2) at 7,641 islands
  4. The UK at 6,346 islands (not counting overseas dependencies)

Indonesia is legendary for its number of islands. I’ve heard that “nobody really knows” how many islands Indonesia has. To my knowledge the mapping technique that Japan just used has not been applied to any of the other countries listed above, so I am not too confident Japan will retain its ranking.

Even more surprising to me, when I looked up the island counts of countries even the massive Indonesia was outranked by a few non-archipelagic countries! Here is the top 10:

Country# of islands# of inhabited islands
United States18,617
List of countries by number of islands. Source →


2 responses to “Japan doubles its islands”

  1. […] more islands than you can likely name. In fact, there are 6,852 at the last official count (UPDATE! Japan doubles its islands). The vast majority of these are uninhabited, but there are 416 islands[1] where human beings (and […]

  2. David Avatar

    Yeah, more islands to visit!!! (well, I assume that all of these newfound islands are just rocks barely sticking out of the water)

    I’m surprised that Canada doesn’t have more islands actually.

    Also, as you mentioned, not all countries count their islands the same way. Maybe they will all start using this new method?